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Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Bolts Beat: Leaguewide respect still elusive

EDMONTON, Alberta — Following the Tampa Bay Lightning around almost from the start of training camp until the end of the season — whenever that happens to be — offers a unique and up-close perspective.

Watching how the coaching staff runs practices, seeing how players work on and off the ice, how they interact with each other, how all of them handle wins, how they handle losses.

It's all part of being a beat writer, covering the ins and outs of the team on a daily basis and getting to know and understand the personalities involved. All of it allows an insider's perspective of how things take shape throughout a season.

All of that also makes it interesting to see how others view the team, which obviously comes with a much different perspective from seeing the team in snippets, either from the few times Tampa Bay plays other teams, watching a few games on television or checking out the standings.

Seeing how others view this year's version of the Lightning one might think would raise some eyebrows and the team would have gained respect for what it has accomplished, particularly for playing most of the season without prominent goal-scorer Steven Stamkos.

But after clicking on a link Thursday afternoon while in Calgary, the day after Tampa Bay knocked off Vancouver, the description of the Lightning was ... strange.

After the Lightning knocked off the Canucks 4-2, the Vancouver Province used this line in describing the game: “For the Canucks, it was an embarrassingly listless 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. They were fed a cupcake, and most Eastern teams qualify, and choked trying to get it down.”

A cupcake? The No. 3 team in the Eastern Conference, a team with more victories than the Canucks, is considered a cupcake?

Talk about earning no respect.

Maybe it's just the fact that the Canucks are supposed to be a powerhouse in the NHL and the Lightning are still just that team that plays in Florida. Perhaps it's because Tampa Bay finished 28th in the league last year, and perception of last year's team acts as reality.

Or maybe, as referenced in the above line, that the West has dominated East vs. West matchups this season allowed the author to ignore Tampa Bay's 8-3-2 record against the West heading into Thursday that included victories against St. Louis, Chicago, Anaheim and Los Angeles.

But maybe in reality, the Lightning were just the better team that night, or in general.

This wasn't the 1993 version of the Lightning that came in and stole a game from the Canucks. It was just a dominating performance by a Tampa Bay team that has been at the top of the East standings since the beginning of the season, and has stayed there.

Sure, this team won't dazzle you, and it doesn't have a high-octane offense full of electrifying players — especially without Stamkos — with a “wow” factor.

The players don't often show up on the highlight reels. And for the most part, there are not any household names on this team.

All the Lightning do is win games.

But most certainly, they are not “cupcakes.”


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Twitter: @erlendssonTBO

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